OIA Football
Moanalua wins championship in magical fashion


Sat, Oct 26, 2019 @ Aloha Stadium [ 4:45 pm ]

Final/OT 1 2 3 4 OT T
LEI(10-3-0) 0 0 7 7720
MOA(10-2-0) 7 7 0 0721
RJ Javar 89 yd 1 TD
Kekoa Turangan 175 yd 1 TD
RJ Javar 26 yd 1 TD
Jamil Vereen 153 yd 2 TD
Jansen York 126 yd 1 TD
Kalei Akagi 96 yd

HALAWA — Some called it a miracle.

Others would say it was straight from a movie script.

But no matter how you slice it, Moanalua's championship win Saturday night was magical.

Na Menehune edged Leilehua in a double-overtime thriller, 21-20, to win the OIA Division I title at Hawaiian Financial FCU Field at Aloha Stadium.

Thriller may actually be an understatement.

Moanalua (10-1) loss its starting quarterback and backup to injuries in the game, survived two potential walk-off field goals by the Mules (9-2), allowed the first touchdown in the second overtime period, but got the win after Dacryes Domingo caught a deflected pass in the back of the end zone that set up Griffin Motas' game-winning PAT.

"I'm ecstatic … at a loss for words. I don't know how to explain this, but all I can tell you is God is good," said Moanalua coach Savaii Eselu. "God is good and He brought us through this. Our players are battle-tested. What better way to end it than with something like this."

Na Menehune, who went undefeated a year ago before falling in the league semifinals, are seasoned veterans when it comes to close games. Moanalua started its 2019 campaign with two one-point victories and won three other games by seven points or less — which includes a 24-20 win over the Mules on Aug. 30.

"Whatever it takes," said Domingo, who had no receptions until his game-tying score. "Our coaches keep preaching that. It showed on the field that we just did whatever it takes and I'm proud of my teammates."

Domingo's TD reception was on a pass that wasn't even intended for him.

Moanalua senior WR Dacyres Domingo (far right) watches the play before coming down with the game-tying TD reception in the second overtime period. Sylvia Lee | SL    Purchase image

Third-string QB Brayden Faamasino, who entered the game with just nine pass attempts this year, threw a pass into the middle of the end zone in the direction of Jacob Richmond. Leilehua safety Julyan Mebane played the ball and jarred it loose from Richmond's hands, but the ball ping-ponged into the hands of Domingo to tie the game at 20.

"The defender just whacked it. I seen the ball, focused in on it and I caught it," Domingo said.

Motas then provided the championship-clinching PAT to give Na Menehune their first league crown in 10 years.

"On our team, everyone has a lot of heart," said Motas, who also kicked the game-winning field goal in Moanalua's season-opening 21-20 win over Iolani. "Everyone put their heart on the field today. Everyone was going down, but we was playing for each other. This is our family right here."

Moanalua scored the first TD of the contest when starting QB RJ Javar found slotback Jansen York on a 76-yard post pattern.

Javar also ran in an 8-yard TD around left end on the first play of the second quarter to extend Na Menehune's lead.

That's when things took a turn.

On his scoring run, Javar took a hard hit from a defender before he touched the pylon with the ball. The Leilehua player that delivered the hit was ejected, but Javar remained down on the field until an ambulance took him to the nearest hospital.

Slotback Rudy Kealohi stepped in behind center for Javar, but a nagging calf injury ultimately thrusted Faamasino into action before the start of the fourth quarter.

But before Faamasino entered the game, the Mules were able to get on the scoreboard on a 19-yard run by Jamil Vereen with 1:43 to play in the third period.

Leilehua then tied the game when Kekoa Turangan completed a 15-yard TD pass to Jonathan Vasquez to make it a 14-14 game with 4:01 remaining in regulation.

Na Menehune could not answer on the ensuing drive and the Mules took over on their own 30 following a punt.

Leilehua was able to drive all the way to the Moanalua 9-yard line to set up a 26-yard field goal try by Konapiliahi Raymond with seconds remaining in the game. Raymond's field goal try was on track to soar through the goal posts, but at the last moment it hit the left upright to send the game into overtime.

"I thought he nailed it and it would be over," Eselu recalled watching the field goal try.

Moanalua had the first possession of the overtime period, but turned it over after Faamasino was intercepted by Narwin Luther in front of the goal line.

Needing a score of any kind to win the game, Leilehua fell behind on the count with two straight incompletions. After a 4-yard completion, Raymond lined up again with another shot to win the game, but shanked it wide left to go to a second overtime period.

The Mules started their next series with an incomplete pass before Vereen took the handoff up the middle for a 20-yard score on Leilehua's first run play after regulation. However, the PAT try failed to leave the score 20-14 with Moanalua on deck.

Faamasino atoned for his earlier interception and had a 4-yard completion and a 7-yard scramble before throwing his TD pass to Domingo.

"We practiced with our backup quarterback, but we didn't think it would go to our backup-backup. He did an amazing job and brought us through it," Eselu said of Faamasino.

Moanalua picked off Turangan four times in the game, led by Christian Sison's two interceptions.

Both teams already qualified for the five-team D1 state tournament with their league championship game appearance. As the OIA runner-up, Leilehua will most likely travel in the opening round of the tournament, which starts on Nov. 15.

Moanalua will have a longer rest and won't play its next opponent until Nov. 23.

INJURY UPDATE: Eselu said that tests on Javar's spine came back OK. Javar also was in good spirits after the game and was seen celebrating with his team on the sideline.

Reach Michael Lasquero at [email protected].




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